Ted Olson’s Report of Phone Calls from Barbara Olson on 9/11: Three Official Denials 1
by David Ray Griffin
Late in theday on 9/11, CNN put out a story that began: “Barbara Olson, a conservativecommentator and attorney, alerted her husband, Solicitor General Ted Olson,that the plane she was on was being hijacked Tuesday morning, Ted Olson toldCNN.” According to this story, Olson reported that his wife had “called himtwice on a cell phone from American Airlines Flight 77,” saying that “allpassengers and flight personnel, including the pilots, were herded to the backof the plane by armed hijackers. The only weapons she mentioned were knives andcardboard cutters.”2
Ted Olson’sreport was very important. It provided the only evidence that American 77,which was said to have struck the Pentagon, had still been aloft after it haddisappeared from FAA radar around 9:00 AM (there had been reports, after thisdisappearance, that an airliner had crashed on the Ohio-Kentucky border). Also,Barbara Olson had been a very well-known commentator on CNN. The report thatshe died in a plane that had been hijacked by Arab Muslims was an importantfactor in getting the nation’s support for the Bush administration’s “war onterror.” Ted Olson’s report was important in still another way, being the sole sourceof the widely accepted idea that the hijackers had box cutters.3
However,although Ted Olson’s report of phone calls from his wife has been a centralpillar of the official account of 9/11, this report has been completely undermined.
Olson beganthis process of undermining by means of self-contradictions. He first told CNN,as we have seen, that his wife had “called him twice on a cell phone.” But hecontradicted this claim on September 14, telling Hannity and Colmes that shehad reached him by calling the Department of Justice collect. Therefore, shemust have been using the “airplane phone,” he surmised, because “she somehowdidn’t have access to her credit cards.”4 However, this version of Olson’sstory, besides contradicting his first version, was even self-contradictory,because a credit card is needed to activate a passenger-seat phone.
Later thatsame day, moreover, Olson told Larry King Live that the second call from hiswife suddenly went dead because “the signals from cell phones coming fromairplanes don’t work that well.”5 After that return to his first version, hefinally settled on the second version, saying that his wife had called collectand hence must have used “the phone in the passengers’ seats” because she didnot have her purse.6
By finallysettling on this story, Olson avoided a technological pitfall. Given the cellphone system employed in 2001, high-altitude cell phone calls from airlinerswere impossible, or at least virtually so (Olson’s statement that “the signalsfrom cell phones coming from airplanes don’t work that well” was a considerableunderstatement.) The technology to enable cell phone calls from high-altitudeairline flights was not created until 2004.7
American Airlines Contradicts Olson’s SecondVersion
However,Olson’s second story, besides being self-contradictory, was contradicted byAmerican Airlines.
A 9/11researcher, knowing that AA Flight 77 was a Boeing 757, noticed that AA’swebsite indicated that its 757s do not have passenger-seat phones. After he wroteto ask if that had been the case on September 11, 2001, an AA customer servicerepresentative replied: “That is correct; we do not have phones on our Boeing757. The passengers on flight 77 used their own personal cellular phones tomake out calls during the terrorist attack.”8
In responseto this revelation, defenders of the official story might reply that Ted Olsonwas evidently right the first time: she had used her cell phone. However,besides the fact that this scenario is rendered unlikely by the cell phonetechnology employed in 2001, it has also been contradicted by the FBI.
Olson’s Story Contradicted by the FBI
The mostserious official contradiction of Ted Olson’s story came in 2006 at the trialof Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker. The evidence presented tothis trial by the FBI included a report on phone calls from all four 9/11flights. In its report on American Flight 77, the FBI report attributed onlyone call to Barbara Olson and it was an “unconnected call,” which (of course)lasted “0 seconds.”9 According to the FBI, therefore, Ted Olson did not receivea single call from his wife using either a cell phone or an onboard phone.
Back on9/11, the FBI itself had interviewed Olson. A report of that interviewindicates that Olson told the FBI agents that his wife had called him twicefrom Flight 77.10 And yet the FBI’s report on calls from Flight 77, presentedin 2006, indicated that no such calls occurred.
This was anamazing development: The FBI is part of the Department of Justice, and yet itsreport undermined the well-publicized claim of the DOJ’s former solicitorgeneral that he had received two calls from his wife on 9/11.
Olson’s Story Also Rejected by PentagonHistorians
Ted Olson’sstory has also been quietly rejected by the historians who wrote Pentagon 9/11,a treatment of the Pentagon attack put out by the Department of Defense.11
According toOlson, his wife had said that “all passengers and flight personnel, includingthe pilots, were herded to the back of the plane by armed hijackers.”12 This isan inherently implausible scenario. We are supposed to believe that 60-somepeople, including the two pilots, were held at bay by three or four men (one ortwo of the hijackers would have been in the cockpit) with knives andboxcutters. This scenario becomes even more absurd when we realize that thealleged hijackers were all small, unathletic men (the 9/11 Commission pointedout that even “[t]he so-called muscle hijackers actually were not physically imposing,as the majority of them were between 5’5” and 5’7” in height and slender inbuild”13), and that the pilot, Charles “Chic” Burlingame, was a weightlifterand a boxer, who was described as “really tough” by one of his erstwhileopponents.14 Also, the idea that Burlingame would have turned over the plane tohijackers was rejected by his brother, who said: “I don’t know what happened inthat cockpit, but I’m sure that they would have had to incapacitate him or killhim because he would have done anything to prevent the kind of tragedy thatbefell that airplane.”15
The Pentagonhistorians, in any case, did not accept the Olson story, according to whichBurlingame and his co-pilot did give up their plane and were in the back withthe passengers and other crew members. They instead wrote that “the attackerseither incapacitated or murdered the two pilots.”16
Thisrejection of Ted Olson’s story by American Airlines, the Pentagon, andespecially the FBI is a development of utmost importance. Without the allegedcalls from Barbara Olson, there is no evidence that Flight 77 returned toWashington. Also, if Ted Olson’s claim was false, then there are only twopossibilities: Either he lied or he was duped by someone using voice-morphingtechnology to pretend to be his wife.17 In either case, the official storyabout the calls from Barbara Olson was based on deception. And if that part ofthe official account of 9/11 was based on deception, should we not suspect thatother parts were as well?
The factthat Ted Olson’s report has been contradicted by other defenders of theofficial story about 9/11 provides grounds for demanding a new investigation of9/11. This internal contradiction is, moreover, only one of 25 suchcontradictions discussed in my most recent book, 9/11 Contradictions: An OpenLetter to Congress and the Press.
1 This essay is based on Chapter 8 (“Did TedOlson Receive Calls from Barbara Olson?”) of David Ray Griffin, 9/11Contradictions: An Open Letter to Congress and the Press (Northampton: OliveBranch, 2008).
2 Tim O’Brien, “Wife of Solicitor General AlertedHim of Hijacking from Plane,” CNN, September 11, 2001(http://archives.cnn.com/2001/US/09/11/pentagon.olson).
3 This was pointed out in The 9/11 CommissionReport, 8.
4 Hannity & Colmes, Fox News, September 14,2001 (http://s3.amazonaws.com/911timeline/2001/foxnews091401.html).
5 “America’s New War: Recovering from Tragedy,”Larry King Live, CNN, September 14, 2001(http://edition.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0109/14/lkl.00.html).
6 In his “Barbara K. Olson Memorial Lecture,”delivered November 16, 2001
Olson said that she “somehow managed . . . touse a telephone in the airplane to call.” He laid out this version of his storymore fully in an interview reported in Toby Harnden, “She Asked Me How to Stopthe Plane,” Daily Telegraph, March 5, 2002(http://s3.amazonaws.com/911timeline/2002/telegraph030502.html).
7 I discussed the technical difficulties ofmaking cell phone calls from airliners in 2001 in Debunking 9/11 Debunking: AnAnswer to Popular Mechanics and Other Defenders of the Official ConspiracyTheory (Northampton: Olive Branch, 2007), 87-88, 292-97.
8 See the submission of 17 February 2006 by “theParadroid” on the Politik Forum (http://forum.politik.de/forum/archive/index.php/t-133356-p-24.html).It is quoted in David Ray Griffin, 9/11 Contradictions: An Open Letter toCongress and the Press (Northampton: Olive Branch, 2008), 75.
9 United States v. Zacarias Moussaoui, ExhibitNumber P200054 (http://www.vaed.uscourts.gov/notablecases/moussaoui/exhibits/prosecution/flights/P200054.html).These documents can be more easily viewed in “Detailed Account of Phone Callsfrom September 11th Flights”
10 FBI, “Interview with Theodore Olsen [sic],”“9/11 Commission, FBI Source Documents, Chronological, September 11,”2001Intelfiles.com, March 14, 2008,
11 Alfred Goldberg et al., Pentagon 9/11(Washington DC: Office of the Secretary of Defense, 2007).
12 O’Brien, “Wife of Solicitor General AlertedHim of Hijacking from Plane.”
13 9/11 Commission Staff Statement 16
14 Shoestring, “The Flight 77 Murder Mystery:Who Really Killed Charles Burlingame?” Shoestring911, February 2, 2008(http://shoestring911.blogspot.com/2008/02/flight-77-murder-mystery-who-really.html).
15 “In Memoriam: Charles ‘Chic’ Burlingame,1949-2001,” USS Saratoga Museum foundation (available athttp://911research.wtc7.net/cache/planes/analysis/chic_remembered.html).
16 Alfred Goldberg et al., Pentagon 9/11(Washington DC: Office of the Secretary of Defense, 2007), 12.
17 Of these two possibilities, the idea that TedOlson was duped should be seriously entertained only if there are recordsproving that the Department of Justice received two collect calls, ostensiblyfrom Barbara Olson, that morning. Evidently no such records have been produced.
© Copyright David Ray Griffin, Global Research,2008